Sadly, we know the public health advice. We can’t get together with cousins and grandparents to open gifts. We can’t go to concerts, pageants, parties, and cookie exchanges. Even holiday work parties and ugly sweaters are starting to look good in retrospect!
All is not lost, though. At Your Teen, we’ve collected tons of fun ideas to celebrate and sparkle up the holidays.
How to Celebrate the Holidays During a Pandemic
- Lean into outdoor decorations. Remember piling everyone in their car in their PJs and driving around to see the lights? Still a top-notch idea with older kids, and consider bumping it up by doing it on foot. (Fresh air and exercise boost!) And your own yard? Now is the time to finally give in and go all out on the tacky, sparkly, and inflatable—all the things you swore “Never!” because you were too classy. Don’t just spark joy; ignite it!
- Move it. The research tells us that sunshine and exercise pump up those feel-good hormones, and we need that more than ever right now. Winter hikes, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowball fights, and snowman building. Adults too! The Scandinavians tell us there’s no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing, so put that long underwear on your holiday wish list. Not in a cold-weather area? No excuses. Yard sports, walks (dog or human), even swimming—the possibilities are endless. (Also, we northerners don’t want to hear about your weather for the next few months, okay?)
- For the birds. Even if you’re not the outdoorsiest, your family can still connect with nature through a window. Set up bird feeders outside a busy room in your house, and watch the fun unfold: pretty birds to brighten gray days, mischievous squirrels trying to raid your supply, and general wildlife silliness and drama. If you want to get crafty, you can even make presents for the birds by peanut buttering pinecones and rolling them in seed. Voila!
- Are you game? Besides the obvious (Zoom), there are lots of ways screens can bring us together. How about online games with faraway friends and family? There are tons of options from trivia to drawing to collaborative games. And surely, if they haven’t already, your teens can teach you how to play Among Us.
- Tell stories. Want to connect from afar, but not sure what to talk to Grandma or Grandpa about? Interview about first jobs, childhood memories, favorite items, and more. Then, to take it up a notch, create an online Kahoot quiz (your teenager can help) that the whole family can take to get to know each other better. A little friendly family competition never hurts!
- Embrace the postal service. Are you sending packages this year? Probably. Cards? Maybe. Even if you don’t do a mass mailing of holiday cards, how about a few handwritten letters, especially to those people in your life that will truly appreciate it. That may mean older people who remember and miss hold-in-your-hand communication, kids who love getting any sort of mail addressed to them, and, really, anyone who needs a little lift. (Isn’t that all of us?) Bump it up even more with little packages for the relatives you can’t see this year—Advent calendars or picture books for the kids, simple handmade (or not) 2020 ornaments, small surprise goodies.
- Movie time. How about a movie marathon? It can holiday-themed or not, whatever your people like. There are no rules: From an “Office” Christmas episode marathon to Star Wars, there’s something for every family. Round it out with a to-die-for “hot chocolate charcuterie board”—hot cocoa plus all the fixings you could ever want.
- Return to old comforts. We all know that puzzles and board games can be fun things to do cozied up on the couch in our slippers. But what about the old favorites in the back of the closet that you haven’t quite decluttered? You might be surprised—even grizzled old teens might get a surprise kick out of pulling out Twister, Battleship, or even Candy Land. Why not?
- Get in the kitchen. Many families have holiday cooking and baking traditions. This year, pass the secrets on to the next generation. And, just as we say 2020 is the year to go all out on decorating, it’s also the year to go all out in the kitchen. Bring on all the icing, complicated candies, you name it. Next level? Have a little competition. A la “Chopped,” everyone makes something from the same mystery ingredient(s). No matter who wins officially, you win because the cooking will be done and not just by you.
Reach out and (safely) touch someone
- Ding Dong Ditch, 2020 Style. Remember the kids (not you, of course) who would ring doorbells, run away, and watch from hiding while a bewildered resident would open the door to an empty stoop? This year, do it with treats. All those goodies we encouraged you to make in the kitchen? Wrap ‘em up, bow ‘em up, and drop to the neighbors who could most use a lift—perhaps those who live solo, might not get many visitors, and don’t find it worthwhile to make homemade specialties.
- Organize an exchange with friends. Teens (or adults) who are missing their friends can organize a cookie exchange (everyone gets goody bags at their door) or gift exchange (Secret Santa style). Set a date, drop the goods, and get online together to open and enjoy. Fun!
- Collect donations. Not only does donating food, toys, or winter clothes help the recipients, it can also be a way to connect with others, multiply the good done, and enlist your teen. Just text friends that you’re making a delivery to the food bank next Friday (or whenever), and that your family will pick up any donations they may have. Enlist your teen to also text their own friends, pick up all the donations, and deliver the haul to its final destination. Teens get to get out of the house, practice driving, wave hello to their friends at pickup, and feel truly good about the real impact their simple gesture is making. Win-win-win-win!